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CEO Spotlight: Monica Ningen

 CEO Spotlight: Monica Ningen


When you’re a CEO, moments matter. It's amazing how the little things you do can impact the culture. These don’t just affect the culture of your company but also how individuals in your organization feel.

Great CEOs not only connect with the minds but also with the hearts and emotions of employees. Such leaders are able to communicate a compelling and inspiring vision for their organization’s future. The best CEOs understand that they’re always on stage and the mic is on.

In this CEO Spotlight, I sit down to chat with Monica Ningen, CEO at Swiss Re Canada to learn all about how they’ve intentionally developed an award-winning company culture that has landed them a spot on the 2022 Best Workplaces in Canada list! Here’s how our conversation went:

Lauren: High-performing organizations make employee communications a priority. They know that an engaged workforce contributes to the company’s success but oftentimes, employees have a tendency to move in the direction that they think the people in charge want to go. At Swiss Re, how do you make your culture goals, objectives and priorities clear to everyone?

Monica: That's a great question and I agree that we cannot succeed without consistent, effective communication. For us, it starts with intention. Each year we clearly articulate our financial goals, along with both short and longer term tranformational objectives. I encourage our leaders to think about three important aspects in all of our communications: What do we want employees to know? How do we want employees to feel? What do we want employees to do? When we communicate, we give reference stories to show the culture in action to make it tangible to the team. For example, demonstrating accountability for things that did not go as planned is just as important as celebrating our accomplishments.

Lauren: Another pillar of successful culture management is the realization that your culture is always changing. Even if you ignore it, your culture will grow and evolve without asking you. So, how do you practice good culture management?

Monica: I think humility and empathy are two of the most important attributes of a leader. They are indispensable, especially in times of disruption or transition. The pandemic brought uncertainty and some circumstances that we could not control. People were looking for answers and a sense of security. We admitted we didn't have all the answers and we listened. We took all the feedback into account and made the best decisions we could. We opened up space for people to connect virtually, from a discussion among our managers on how to best support working parents to trivia nights. Much of what we have learned has served us well as we, and our clients, look to the future and to a "new" hybrid work environment.

Lauren: Culture becomes relevant when it directly connects to the business strategy. Ideally, your company's strategy should be informed by your mission and vision, which in turn guide your company's culture. How do you weave your mission swissand vision into your company culture at Swiss Re?

Monica: We are one of the world’s leading providers of reinsurance, insurance and other forms of insurance-based risk transfer. We work with our clients to fulfill our shared vision of a more resilient world. The mission is totally aligned to the vision: we collaborate with our clients who bring complementary knowledge and skill sets for a better result. In short, we're smarter together.

Lauren: It’s repeatedly said that purpose is the backbone of a strong culture. It binds people working together, in all capacities, to realize rewards beyond financial performance. What are some of the ways that you make work meaningful for your employees?

Monica: Building and sustaining a culture is a continuous, repeatable process. You can't take a day off.  I am a strong believer that connecting people to the purpose or mission is critical. This means fostering an enviroment where people understand the corporate mission and can articluate their own personal purpose: it's why we show up every day and work so hard to build and sustain a winning culture. Because we spend so many of our hours each day working, that time needs to be meaningful and fun. I believe that everything is possible, and while this is aspirational, by approaching opportunities and challenges with this mindset we can set the stage to accomplish amazing things together. Always act with integrity. Have empathy and care for people. When we model those behaviours, people notice and it's infectious. Then they do the same and pass it on.

Lauren: Culture is reflected in both what people say and what people do. It’s shaped by how your employees talk about your company and the people connected to your company (e.g., customers, co-workers, managers, and leaders). Tell us what you do to strengthen your company culture?

Monica: At Swiss Re Canada, we have many ways for our team members to get involved, which strengthens our company culture. Our Employee Advisory Group has become a valuable source of feedback and ideas. Our Social Committee plans events, our Philanthropy Committee creates awareness, raises funds and organizes volunteers, the Wellness Committee brings colleagues together to support each other's physical and mental well being and The Green Team champions local environmental events. In addition, we have four DE&I related Employee Resources Groups: Together with Pride (LGBTI+), Mosaic (People of Color), Pathways (Mental Health) and Level Up (Gender). Thanks to the passion and commitment of these team members, our people are more engaged, empowered and excited about coming to work. When others see this inspiring and inclusive performance culture, they want to join us and that's a powerful recruiting tool.  

About Great Place to Work®
Great Place to Work® makes it easy to survey your employees, uncover actionable insights and get recognized for your great company culture. Clients apply our insights, advice, and tools to fuel the vision, decisions and actions that drive business performance. Learn more about Great Place to Work Certification.

Lauren O'Donnell
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